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Did You Know that the Contraceptive Pill Could ‘Break’ Your Hormones?



I’ll be honest. The contraceptive pill has been blessing for many women.


When it was introduced in the 60s, it accelerated the social revolution that was taking hold at the time. Women were suddenly empowered to choose their own path through life and break out of the shadow of men without worrying about unplanned pregnancies.


They could take control, they could choose when to have children, they could follow exciting career paths or further education instead of getting married young and taking care of the kids. Life wouldn’t be quite the same today if it wasn’t for the contraceptive pill.


However, there’s a darker side to the contraceptive pill and other forms of hormonal contraception that often doesn’t get discussed. It’s the damage that those tiny little pills can do to our long-term hormonal health and even our experience of the menopause.


If you’re reading this now, you’re probably one of the 200 million women globally who have ever taken the pill, and you’re also like to be worrying about what all of this bad news means for you.


How does the pill affect our long-term hormonal health? What does it mean for the menopause? What happens if you’ve always taken the pill- can you do anything to reverse the damage?


Keep reading and I’ll answer all of these questions for you, plus share some extra tips to heal your hormones at the end.


How does the contraceptive pill work?


Before we go much further, let’s take a look at how the pill actually works in your body. Many of us don’t give this much thought- as long as it does its job, you’re happy.


The pill prevents pregnancy by controlling your hormonal levels and preventing ovulation (when you release an egg from your ovaries each month), thickening the mucus at the neck of your womb, and thins the lining of your womb so any fertilised egg can’t implant.


It does all of this using artificial hormones. The actual combination of hormones used depends on the type of pill you’re taking, but we don’t really need to go into the details here.


How the pill affects your body short-term


Put simply, the presence of artificial hormones in your body means that your body is in an artificial state. Your natural production of hormones drops as does the effect that these hormones have on your body. They have to- this is what stops pregnancy from happening.


All of this can have quite a toll on your health- the contraceptive pill has been linked to all kinds of nasty side effects, such as:


• Mood swings (anxiety, depression)


• Sore or tender breasts


• Headaches and migraines


• Nausea


• Weight gain


• Stomach pain


• Raised blood pressure


• Greater risk of certain cancers


• Greater risk of strokes and blood clots


• Vomiting or diarrhoea


• Rash or hives


• Loss of interest in sex


• Deficiencies in iron and B-complex vitamins


Of course, not all pills work contain the same combination of hormones so for some women switching brands can help with these symptoms.


Even if you can put up with these short-term symptoms, it’s the long-term effects of taking the pill that are the most worrying.


What the pill does to our long-term health and experience of the menopause


When you put aside the most recent research that links taking the pill with certain forms for cancer like breast cancer and ovarian cancer , increased risk of stroke, migraines, high blood pressure, decreased bone density and increased risk of heart attack.


But the pill also affects your natural hormone balance, your hormone reserves and the way your body responds to stress and other stimulus.


All of this has a massive impact upon your peri-menopausal and menopausal experience. It could be the difference between having a relatively easy, pain-free menopause or struggling every step of the way.


To explain exactly why this happens, I’ll need to dive into some science but I promise I’ll keep it as simple as possible.


The HPA Axis


It all comes down to something called the HPA axis. The HPA axis describes the relationship between three important glands in your body- the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and your adrenal glands, and how they interact.


→Hypothalamus


Your hypothalamus serves to keep everything in your body in balance. It’s responsible for things like controlling your body temperature, hunger, feelings of being full up after eating, blood pressure and your hormone levels. It plays a role in stress and also sleep too.


→Your pituitary gland


Your pituitary gland is often known as the ‘master gland’ as it oversees so many of the body’s functions. This includes growth hormones, sex hormones, thyroid hormones, oxytocin (the cuddle hormone), and prolactin which is involved in the production of breast milk.


→Your adrenal glands


Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys and are responsible for the production of stress hormones like cortisol, androgens (used mainly during puberty) and also certain hormones which help maintain salt and water levels in your body, and also help regulate your blood pressure.


What happens to this HPA axis when you take the pill


As you can see, these glands are very important for your overall health and wellness. But sadly, the pill disrupts this wonderful balance and prevents the glands involved in the HPA axis stop working as they should.


Those messages your body receives from the outside world get confused and don’t work as they should, and your glands just can’t communicate effectively anymore.


Additionally, your hormonal reserves also get depleted when you are on the pill, so there isn’t any kind of ‘buffer’ to help keep your hormonal levels at a natural level.


This means you’re much more likely to suffer from those horrible peri-menopausal and menopausal symptoms like low energy, brain fog, weight gain around your belly, and a decline in your sex drive when the time comes, and be at a greater risk of adrenal fatigue and hormonal issues like PMT.


Other potential health risks from taking the contraceptive pill


Sadly, this isn’t where the health risks end. When you take the pill you are like to also suffer from:


Vitamin and mineral deficiencies


The pill affects our ability to absorb many of the vitamins and minerals in our diet, and you are likely to suffer from deficiencies in most minerals including magnesium, zinc, B-complex vitamins and vitamin C.


Gut health issues


Birth control pills kill healthy bacteria in your gut, impact on your immune system and also leave you more likely to suffer from yeast infections, gut issues and candida.


What you can do if you’ve ever taken the contraceptive pill


You’re probably panicking now about the potential harm you’ve done to your body over the years, but please don’t worry.


Whilst we can’t go back and undo any of the health decisions we’ve ever made, we can change our future actions and start to prioritise our future health.


Obviously I'm not going to tell you to come of the pill because that’s your personal choice and is a decision to be discussed between you and your GP. However, I think it’s important to be aware of the damage it’s doing to your body. That way you can better support your body and mitigate some of the risks.


Here’s how you can do it:


1- Repair your gut


Your gut has come under a lot of stress whilst you’ve been taking the pill, so it’s vital that you take time to give it some TLC.


The best way to do this is to clean up your diet and eat ‘real’ foods cooked from scratch as much as possible. Also ensure you’ve including grass-fed organic animal proteins, plenty of veggies, herbs and spices and fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, Kefir, olives and Kimchi.


2- Reduce your alcohol consumption


I know this might not exactly be the best news you’ll ever receive, but if you want to undo some of the damage the contraceptive pill has done to your body you’ll need to reduce your alcohol intake.


Alcohol is high in sugar which will disrupt your hormonal balance and feed candida which will just worsen your symptoms. Alcohol also burns the lining of your stomach which will interfere with your digestion and could result in dietary deficiencies.


3- Increase foods rich in essential minerals and vitamins


It’s also a good idea to start eating more foods which are rich in nutrients and will heal your body. Try to choose colourful foods that are colourful, and also those that contain high levels of magnesium, vitamin C and B-complex vitamins.


Great choices include:


  • Dark leafy greens (like spinach, kale, Brussel sprouts, broccoli)

  • Nuts & seeds

  • Fish

  • Beans

  • Avocados

  • Animal proteins

  • Eggs

  • Bananas

  • Potatoes

  • Citrus fruit

  • Red peppers

  • Strawberries


Again, don’t worry if you’ve been taking the pill for years, because you can reduce some of the damage and help your hormones heal again. Follow the above tips and you can improve your menopausal experience and get your mojo back!

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